EU Students Turn Away from British Institutions Amid Drastic Tuition Fee Hikes

Updated: Nov 15, 2020

Ever since the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016 in a decision known as Brexit, there have been several consequences for higher education. One of them has been a drastic reduction in the number of EU students studying in the UK.


According to a survey conducted by Study.EU, British universities are expected to lose as many as 84% of potential EU students, due to the ‘home student’ status and access to loans now being revoked. The numbers are dire indeed, projecting an approximate loss of 120,000 enrolments, or 25% of international students following the drastic hike in tuition fees. With a recent announcement declaring student loans no longer being accessible to EU students, around 56% of prospective students will not be able to commence their studies for financial reasons.

Brexit is changing the landscape of higher education in the UK. International students coming to the UK from August 2021 onward will see higher tuition costs than those paid by domestic students. With the 2021/2022 academic year soon approaching, higher tuition fees and an average fee increase of around 99% will become a significant deterrent for EU students, thus pointing to even steeper declines in future applications. What does this mean in numbers? While current European students at British universities are required to pay an annual tuition fee of up to £9,250, international fees for undergraduate students start at around £10,000 and go up to £38,000 or higher for medical degrees according to The Reddin Survey.

However, on a more positive note, EU students who would still like to pursue postgraduate education in the UK may find the weak pound sterling soften the blow of higher tuition costs. If the country’s currency remains weak, studying in the UK can stay somewhat affordable for international students.


Britain’s departure from the European Union has also changed regulations concerning freedom of movement. EU students who plan to arrive in the UK after 1 January 2021 will need to apply for a student visa if they wish to enroll on a course longer than six months. Nevertheless, according to the British Council, these changes are only provisional and subject to change due to the ongoing Brexit negotiations. What we do know for certain at this point is that there will be higher tuition fees and a need for student visas for EU students looking to study in the UK. These sweeping changes have given rise to harsh criticism from across the political spectrum and various higher education institutions.

If you consider pursuing your education at a British institution, it is advisable that you contact your university of choice directly before applying, as their representatives will be in the best position to guide you through the new changes expected to take place in the new academic year.


Faced with the daunting prospect of higher tuition fees, what alternatives are there for new students? It should come as no surprise that in recent years, European universities have been providing a broader range of courses taught in English, with their numbers increasing even more following the Brexit referendum in 2016. Mostly tuition-free Europe is now seen as a preferred choice among most EU students, with The Netherlands being the frontrunner at 49%, followed by Germany at 36% and France at 19%.

"We shouldn't be trying to build up barriers to access education; we should be trying to break them down," comments deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Michelle O'Neill in light of the strong competition British universities now face on the continent.


Tuition fees rise not right, says Michelle O'Neill, 19 January 2020

UK universities might lose 84% of EU students at higher fees – Survey, 1 July 2020

EU student advice, accessed 6 October 2020

Reddin survey of university tuition fees, 13 August 2020

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